Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Conor Oberst

If you’re Conor Oberst, what do you do for inspiration when you’ve toured the world countless times and written hundreds of songs? The conventional answer would be to break the patterns of previous work. Out went his right hand man engineer-producer Mike Mogis with his comfy Nebraska studio digs and in came Tepoztlán, Morales, Mexico. Conor packed up his gear and assembled a crack team of musicians to back him on his latest effort, aptly titled, Conor Oberst.

The album kicks off with “Cape Canaveral” on which Oberst flexes his vivid use of verbal imagery. Decorating his tightly layered vocals with remarkable lines such as, “Colors of my destiny” or “Victory is sweet / Even in the cheap seats.” He’s clearly spent a lot of time on the road thinking about the life he’s living rather than what he’s missing. I guess that happens when you’ve toured for 14 years.

“Get Well Cards” follows the lead with no frills production and keeping the live sound of the band intact. This record sounds like five musicians in a room exchanging ideas. While this sounds like a simple idea, most bands have lost this method of work due to the digital age.

“I Don’t Want to Die in a Hospital” is a song that would make Jerry Lee Lewis extremely proud…or extremely mad. While most of songs on this album are guitar and lyrically driven, this one finds its engine in Nick Walcott’s piano work. The song provides a change of pace and gives the album a unique energy in its flow.

The album’s finest moment is in “Eagle on a Pole.” Songwriters take note; this is how you write a great song. The verses are stripped down and naked which allows the band to slide into the choruses with Conor asking, “where have you been?” Instead of falling back on distorted guitars to supply the foundation for the chorus, Oberst lets the band breathe and supply the dramatic backdrop to match his words. This is what separates Conor Oberst from the millions of “first name last name” with an acoustic guitar: his songwriting possess depth that most can only mimic or dream of.

For any songwriter this would be a great album, most songwriters never get to this level of storytelling, but for Conor Oberst it’s just good. If he left off “NYC Gone, Gone” and “Valley Mistico,” the cohesiveness of the remaining songs would have made it a great album. “Souled Out” is a meandaring dragger that features Oberst asking if there’s another chorus. It ends in a cacophony of distorted vocals and drums which shirnk back down to an acoustic guitar. Two more takes and you might have had it guys. Regardless, this is a great band lead by one of the most prolific songwriters of our time, check the tour dates below.

Tour Dates:
Aug 05 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
Aug 08 – Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
Aug 09 – Carrboro, NC @ Cats Cradle
Aug 10 – Norfolk, VA @ Norva
Aug 11 – Philadelphia, PA @ the Trocadero
Aug 12 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Aug 17 – Saratoga, NY @ Saratoga Music Festival

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